Net Impact’s Chapters Bring an Authentic Voice to Sustainable Wine Marketing
How can a major wine company talk about sustainability while remaining authentic and relatable to U.S. consumers?
In our recently completed program, The Best Grapes are Green: A Sustainability Case Competition from Kendall-Jackson, participants took on this real-world business challenge and made recommendations on what Kendall-Jackson can do to connect their sustainability commitment to consumers in the store.
After reviewing 40 applications, 12 teams made it to the semi-finalist round where they went on to develop full marketing plans with support from Net Impact and Kendall-Jackson. From this prestigious group, three teams were selected as finalists and invited to participate in a pitch-off event in front of an esteemed judging panel and a room full of Kendall-Jackson staff in Sonoma, CA. Finalist teams represented Georgetown University McDonough School of Business, George Washington University School of Business, and the University of California, Berkeley Haas School of Business.
The wine and marketing filled weekend kicked-off with the pitch-off event at the beautiful Pavillion at La Crema Estate at Saralee's Vineyard. Each team had 20 minutes to present their marketing plans, followed by a 25 minute Q&A session from the judges and audience.
The team from the University of California, Berkeley Haas School of Business, made up of Margaret Baughman, Erin Casale, Renee Medina, and Daniela Trigo, gave an exciting presentation that focused on experiential partnerships like a collaboration with Airbnb brought to life through farm-to-table aesthetics.
Amanda Lane, Aimee Smith, Susi Eckelmann, and Liz Albright representing Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business went second. The team presented ideas that targeted consumers by region with strategic partnerships like gift boxes and meal delivery services featuring partnerships with sustainable food brands.
Last to present was the team from George Washington University School of Business. The two-person team made of Simge Okut and Jennifer Swartz, revealed their plan focused on water conservation and a wine truck that would tour 15 U.S. cities that are popular with Millennials!
The judges – an esteemed panel made up of Katie Jackson, VP External Affairs & Sustainability, Jackson Family Wines, David Bowman, EVP Marketing – Classics & Estates, Jackson Family Wines, Marcelo Aguero, SVP JFW Distribution, Jackson Family Wines, Shilah Salmon, VP Creative & Strategy, Jackson Family Wines, and Virginie Boone, Contributing Editor to Wine Enthusiast -- deliberated and made a tough decision of picking a winner to be announced later that evening.
The teams then joined the judges and Kendall-Jackson staff for a farm to table lunch and garden tour with executive chef Justin Wangler at the Kendall-Jackson Winery Estate and Gardens. Judge Aguero said before the start of lunch, "We were so impressed by the research and effort you put into your presentations. You'll find out the winner tonight, but don't be surprised if you see elements of all your proposals in upcoming K-J initiatives."
Teams spent a fun-filled day learning about the sustainability commitments Jackson Family Wines has implemented across their many brands, including mapping animal migration paths to ensure their vineyards don't disrupt the local ecosystem and cutting-edge barrel washing technology, which recaptures thousands of gallons of water from a previously very wasteful process.
The teams and judges met for dinner at Spoonbar for a farm-fresh meal and the winner announcement. Julien Gervreau, Director of Sustainability at Kendall-Jackson, stated, "You've inspired us all to think about our brand in new ways" before announcing that the team from George Washington was named the winners of the pitch-off. Georgetown earned the audience choice award for their ideas.
The next morning, teams headed back to the La Crema Winery for a tour and tasting. Students learned more about K-J's sustainable harvesting procedures, the Tesla batteries used to power some facilities, and the care K-J puts into considering native birds, foxes, and otters as they work to protect their vineyards without harming the ecosystem.
"It was great to come and not only participate in the pitch-off, but also get to know the Kendall-Jackson environment and the team a little better. We had been working on this project for so long that actually getting an insider look into what we've been writing about was eye-opening." Simge Okut, George Washington